How to Choose a Paralegal School near Eureka Springs Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Eureka Springs AR and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by looking for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Eureka Springs homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be considered too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Eureka Springs AR with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their regular tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Eureka Springs AR paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career in Eureka Springs AR as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arkansas to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies in the profession are:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations
- American Alliance of Paralegals
- National Association of Legal Assistants
- National Association for Legal Professionals
By graduating with a degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Eureka Springs AR.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal programs have become more available and may be a good option for those in Eureka Springs AR looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating Eureka Springs AR area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant aspects to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Eureka Springs AR law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Eureka Springs AR paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Eureka Springs AR legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those schools that are within your Eureka Springs AR local region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Eureka Springs AR. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Eureka Springs AR, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose provides that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Eureka Springs AR?
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Eureka Springs is a city in Carroll County, Arkansas, United States, and one of two county seats for the county. It is located in the Ozarks of northwest Arkansas. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 2,073.
The entire city is on the National Register of Historic Places as the Eureka Springs Historic District. Eureka Springs has been selected as one of America's Distinctive Destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Eureka Springs was originally called "The Magic City" and later the "Stairstep Town" because of its mountainous terrain and the winding, up-and-down paths of its streets and walkways.
It is a popular tourist destination for its unique character as a Victorian resort village. The city has steep winding streets filled with Victorian-style cottages and manors. The historic commercial downtown of the city has an extensive streetscape of well-preserved Victorian buildings. The buildings are primarily constructed of local stone, built along streets that curve around the hills and rise and fall with the topography in a five-mile long loop. Some buildings have street-level entrances on more than one floor. The streets wind around the town, and no two intersect at a 90 degree angle; there are no traffic lights.
The European Americans also believed that the springs had healing powers. After the Europeans arrived, they described the waters of the springs as having magical powers. Dr. Alvah Jackson was credited in American history with locating the spring, and in 1856 claimed that the waters of Basin Spring had cured his eye ailments. Dr. Jackson established a hospital in a local cave during the Civil War and used the waters from Basin Spring to treat his patients. After the war, Jackson marketed the spring waters as "Dr. Jackson's Eye Water".
Enroll in the Right Paralegal College near Eureka Springs AR
Choosing the ideal paralegal training program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Eureka Springs residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Eureka Springs AR.
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Paralegal Studies | California State University, East Bay
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